The Afterlife of a Christmas Tree

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Christmas Trees

(Words by Charly)

As the joyful festivities of Christmas start to fade away and we start to pack the Christmas lights and baubles into their boxes, ready again for next year, we prepare to discard of Christmas trees that, for a few weeks, gave us a sense of tradition and Christmas spirit.

Just as quickly as they arrived, we are also quick to be rid of them as we prepare for a New Year - one without pine needles everywhere!

But, have you ever given much thought to what happens to our beloved trees, once covered in light and adorned with our favourite decorations?

What happens to the trees once the lights are turned off?

I was recently told that the decomposition of a single Christmas tree produced the equivalent emissions of a flight from London to Australia. I couldn’t quite believe this, so I decided to do some digging of my own. As well as being a keen environmentalist, I am also a huge lover of Christmas and couldn’t imagine having Christmas without the fresh smell of pine and all of the glittering lights, so was hoping that perhaps this was just a misleading sound bite.

While I was unable to find any evidence of this ‘fact’ (a win for Christmas fanatics everywhere), I did learn a lot about the environmental impact of our trees. First of all, not all Christmas trees have the same carbon footprint. On average, a Christmas tree grows for twelve years before it ends up in your house. In this time, it has a positive impact on the environment as it absorbs Carbon Dioxide from the atmosphere.

Not all trees have the same carbon footprint

However, once it is cut down, it starts to release these emissions. The transport of Christmas trees also adds to the total emissions of a Christmas tree and so buying one that is locally grown can help reduce this (something to think about next year!) However, the biggest impact on the carbon emissions of a Christmas tree is how it is disposed of. Ending up in a landfill is the worst possible way to be rid of your Fir, as the limited oxygen supplies makes the organic matter produce methane, which adds to the plight of global warming.

It is actually far better for the environment to burn your Christmas tree. So why not make it a family activity, to chop up the Christmas tree, build a campfire (caution: Pine trees are extremely flammable so do not burn in the household fireplace and, when burning outside, do this away from any trees or flammable materials) and welcome in the new year by roasting marshmallows while you enjoy the last of your Christmas tree!

the roof of this monkey house is made of Christmas tree branches

The best use of old Christmas trees, by far, was the various uses that they were put to in the zoo for endangered animals as toys, bedding and great nest material! This extensive project means that the Christmas trees enjoy a limited carbon footprint, saves on buying compost for when Spring rolls around and protects flowers and shrubs from frost!

If you look closely in the photo above, you may be able to see that the entire nest on top of the roof pictured, is made out of Christmas tree branches, for the monkeys to enjoy, relax in and play with.

So, whether your Christmas tree is still in your house or has been relegated to the front or back garden in the hope that someone will miraculously whisk it away (or is that just my family?), please consider putting it to one last use - either in your flower beds, or as a cosy evening campfire. But whatever you do, please, please, please don’t send it to the landfill!

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